Dr. StrangeCamp or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love being a Tester

I was really apprehensive about the trip all week. First of all, I was completely write-blocked on my presentation, I had all this shit to take care of at work ( still do, lol ), I hadn’t located my Corporate Card until the day before the trip, my flight was at 6 AM ( I’m total rubbish at getting up early, and I have a history of missing flights at any time of day ), and I’d never given a talk like this to boot. Oh yeah, I’d done tons of presentations at Lockheed, but that was always presenting data and findings, maybe giving some recommendations. I’d never really talked in front of my peers before in an educational sense.

When I got there though, it went great. Everyone was super nice, especially Doug, Lewis, and Clark ( Kelly lol ). I think the real turning point for me was the open panel discussion. Pretty much everyone on the panel was waaaaay more experienced than I was, but I felt like the one question I answered, I answered decently. Prior to doing my own session, I got to attend 3 other ones: Reusing Services, SQL Tuning from a Dev’s perspective, and Creating a Custom Extender using ASP.NET AJAX. I really liked the last two, but the services talk was definitely geared towards Devs and Architects. In addition to being more targeted towards my interests, I really liked how the other 2 talks were immediately applicable to stuff that I am working on right now. Case in point, the SQL tuning talk will be put to immediate use on TagSpace.

My own talk went well I thought. I think I had to work hard to get people interested, but I think that by the end I had most of the people in the session on-board. A few difficulties here that I think are relevant:

1) Less than 1/3 of the people had ever worked in an Agile development process

2) I’m pretty sure not a single person in the session was a tester – to wit, they were all developers

3) Math makes all the normal people’s eye’s glaze over, even though a nerd like me would have wanted to see even more than what I showed

4) For non-Microsoft individuals, the cost of entry represented by a single license of Visual Studio Team Edition represents a SERIOUS barrier of entry.

I think I tackled #1 and #2 pretty well, #3 I glossed over enough so that it didn’t kill me, but #4 I don’t think I really addressed at all. How do we evangelize our methodologies and practices if they are reliant on a piece of technology that the listener may not be able to afford? I definitely got them excited about Visual Studio, but is it up to me to also outline alternatives? In the end game, going to these sessions is meant to help out these people, but its also meant to get them to further adopt Microsoft products. What happens if the next best alternative is a competitors solution? I’m sure these are not new questions, but I think I’m in a unique position since I work in the Communities team. If I was working in the Visual Studio Team, my questions would be given not much thought, but as someone who is suppose to engage Microsoft customers, its inevitable that I should ponder the thought of why someone would not want to use our products, and to even examine those products. Hmm…this is too much for one post, more next time.

How do you lead a horse to water?

Just got done giving 2 customer presentations here in Atlanta. Overall, i’m really happy with my work there and hopefully Alan feels the same way. 🙂 couple of things while its all fresh in my mind though:
1. Business Cards – I always thought they were a waste of time before, but I really wish I had a few to give away. I think I missed out on some oppotunities to make a deeper customer connection by offering to stay in touch with them.
2. Low-key is the way to go – the 2nd meeting, and I feel it went better than the first. It could have gone really poorly though, as the crowd was definitely was much more critical, but when we warmed them over, they rose to the occassion and really asked alot of good questions. They are NOT a Microsoft stronghold, and to win them over, we had to make them see how Microsoft products enables US to do our work better. We strongly presented to Communties work paradigms and practices and tied it to how Visual Studio: Team Edition enables us to do our job better. In retrospect, it becomes obvious that unless someone is especially dissatisfied with their current product, that this becomes the only way to get them to switch. You can show-off all the whiz bang features you want, but it comes down to how the product enables people to get there work done in an efficacious manner.
3. Questions, questions, questions – How to solicit questions? Honestly I don’t know, but getting the crowd to ask questions is the key to establishing rapport and connection. If the crowd isn’t asking questions, then it feels like something is wrong. Unless the questions are about the basic fundamentals that your presentation is suppose to cover,  in which case you may have fucked up. 😛 In all seriousness though, the first talk was O.K., but I feel like we didn’t establish a rapport with the audience. Even if the questions were hostile/probing, I think I would have preferred that. Not to make it all sound bad, some of the people really responded well, but I think at least 1/2 the audience was drifting.
Thats all I have for now. I think it would behoove alot more people in the communities team to head out and meet some customers face-to-face instead of online. I think the issues they face are quite different, the the challenge of engaging them is more arduous than with a customer online. If they customer is contacting you on-line, I’m thinking that you are already more than 50% to creating a customer connection. When you go out there, you see how hard it is to even get them into considering Microsoft in general, much less asking you about a specific feature on a specific product, which, "oh but the way" just happens to be in Beta.
Anyway, I gotta figure out how to upload my deck. 🙂 Tomorrow I’ll talk about Testing, how I think its a great evangelical tool, and the contents of my mythical deck, testing in a SCRUM/Agile environment.
p.s. Thank you to Doug and all the customers we talked to today! I really appreciate the opportunity and I hope that you guys got as much out of it as I did ( i.e. dry run for Code Camp )

Leaving on a jet place…

So tomorrow i’m going to Atlanta for a Code Camp. First time i’ve been sent out on business for Microsoft so i’m both scared and excited. 🙂 I’ll be giving a presentation on working as a tester in a SCRUM/Agile environment. I hope to get some good feeback, and I’ll be posting the deck i’ve created up here when I get back. What does it really mean to be a tester in an Agile environment? I can only talk about it from the perspective of someone who has only known it to be that way. I’ve never worked in a waterfall environment as a software tester, but I have to say, working in an Agile environment is incredibly gratifying.
I worked at Lockheed for almost 5 years, and it was torturous. That place was a total waterfall model, and the chances of a junior engineer making a signifcany contribution on the design side of a project were extremely low. Projects were multi-year affairs and almost every single project I worked on there had already begun a significant time before I had even joined. I will say this though, there was a certain something that was nice in knowing that your project was secure for the longest time. Personally, I would gladly trade some security for opportunity, but I can see the allure.
Hopefully I won’t be a knucklehead and forget my camera. I’ll try to take some pictures and get back into it. My D70 is languishing for me to get off my a ss…
Man, that profanity filter is really starting to piss me off. Next post after the post where I return is going to be about that thing. super annoying.
p.s. Nice! it only filters out the language in the title field. I’m definitely mollified by that.

Every Journey begins when you get your a s s out the door

After alot of prodding by my fearless leader, Vikas, I’ve decided to start a blog.
why? well, primarily to provide a record of all my crazy ideas and thoughts so I can see what i’ve done and how i’ve progressed as my time at microsoft goes by. Maybe anybody reading will find something they like too. So as the title suggests, lets just get into it and see where we go.
who am i? Ngoc-Huong Nguyen, originally born in Michigan. Went to Michigan State University, spent a few years puttering around till i settled into Electrical Engineering. Loved it, but also had a torrid love affair with photography my senior year. Graduated and moved to New York ( upstate, not the city ) and worked for Lockheed Martin. 5 best and worst years of my life. I think you can learn as much from a shit job as a good job, but the experience is much less pleasant. However, did make many great friends and during that time pretty much learned everything about life that my family ( 1st generation vietnamese ) had prevented me from learning. 🙂 horribly depressed after the death of my dad in a car accident in 2003, I moved to Washington to live with my sister. She hooked me up with a job working for her doing web design and graphic design. One year and a half later, by pure chance, I got a chance to apply at Microsoft and here I am.
long story short: I love it. Maybe i’m still in new hire heaven, but I totally dig the company. I don’t love everything they do, and I don’t always use their products ( illustrator versus publisher, hello? ), but as a company to work for, i’m 100% with it.
current project: Tagging. Tagging, oh glorious tagging. I’m a neophyte, but its a great space to be working in, and i’ll be posting some of my ideas about it here in the future. Basically i’m not a big tagging/social bookmarking guy. My goal for myself is to figure out why, and if I can convince myself to start, I think that will go a long way toward solving the question of how do we get a greater set of the existing population to use it.
So thats it. I guess you’ll know more as i write more. 🙂 thanks for reading.
p.s. a s s is banned? doh